Archives for posts with tag: Bible

Pivotal bulletin copy

Note: the following is an example of the devotionals I’m writing for our Pivotal series (a study of Acts). For more, please go here.

I have so many unanswered questions related to the Ananias and Sapphira story in Acts 5 but there is one thing that is certain about it–they died for conspiring together and lying to God.

I am also fairly certain that while Peter was completely aware of the fate awaiting Sapphira, he may have been as surprised as everyone else when Ananias fell dead in the middle of his speech.

There is a part of us that wants to cry “unfair” when we read this story. I’m not going to deny it: I feel sorry for this couple. The story doesn’t tell us how old they were or if they had any children. Luke doesn’t even care to mention the price of the piece of property they sold.

Not that it matters that much. In the end, their capital offense was to conspire to lie against God. Peter stated it a little differently to Sapphira. He said they put the Holy Spirit to the test. Maybe that gives us a clue. Could this couple be defying God? I mean, “Let’s see what kind of a god he is before we can truly believe,” type of defiance? Did they purposefully try to mock God? “These people think they know everything. Let’s fool them,” type of mockery?

You see what I am doing? I am still trying to find an offense that is bad enough to bring such swift and irreversible penalty to bear on these poor souls. Why? Because in my own subdued, defiant way, I refuse to accept that lying to God is a punishable offense, let alone a capital one. And there is more: every day there are Christians blatantly lying to God and they have yet to see the dirty feet of the grave diggers saying, “Next?” This seems to confirm that lying to God is not such a big deal. Or does it?

Recently, a famous website exposed the lies of so many people who sought to engage in marital infidelity without fear of being discovered. Well, thousands had their names revealed, including a handful of well known Christian leaders. They lied to their spouses, but they lied to God first. But they didn’t drop dead in front of their computers, though one evangelical leader tragically took his own life.

Children tell their parents they were doing homework at their friend’s house when they were out partying and engaging in illegal activities. Adults engage in online pornography while telling their spouses they are watching reruns of Friends. Our brave new world has given us all the tools we need to lie with impunity, or so we think.

So the question really is: “Why are we still alive?” Or even close to home: “Why am I alive?” And the answer may be simply related to the fact that we no longer have someone with the prophetic and apostolic authority of Peter to spot our sins!

But we should not make the mistake of thinking that our life extension here means that we somehow beat the system, for there will be a day of reckoning and we better be prepared for it. As Peter himself said in another place: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

May we also be overcome with a healthy sense of fear of God (Acts 5:5) as we consider how we are living today.

Questions to ponder:

1. Why do you think Luke singled out one sin (lying) to write about in this early stage of the history of the Church?

2. List the types of injuries that occur when people decide to lie blatantly about something they did.

3. What is the biblical solution for the habit of lying?

Pastor Ivanildo Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

My father is a quiet man. If I have heard one complaint about him my whole life, it’s exactly his awkward social skills at home. Growing up I got used to this man who always seemed to be most content alone with his thoughts. As I got older life took me away from home and there was even more geographic distance between us.

Now that he will be 88 this year, at the urging of my wife, I took two weeks vacation to spend time with my dad. I also needed some time away to get some perspective and rest from some of the challenges of life and ministry that had become particularly intense as of late.

And, not surprisingly, I found vintage Pastor Eulálio: quiet, unassuming, averse to multitudes, more at ease with his own thoughts. For a talker like me, this is a good exercise. I am forced to listen intently, as if hanging on the edges of conversion, to mine some nuggets of rare wisdom, which I invariably do with him.

3 IT BLOG 5-22-2015So I “perched” myself in the patio just about every day, after lunch and before the afternoon rains. There, I would read, think, pray, rest, and eventually fall asleep for a brief time, a nap made possible only by the magic of the ear plugs (after this trip I have decided that if I had to chose between ear plugs or headphones, I would always pick the former.)

2 IT BLOG 5-22-2015 At some point, after his nap, my dad would come out to the patio, Bible in hand as always, and he would sit there in his accustomed place, reading the Word with the curiosity of a two year old and the tenacity of a medical scientist who believes he’s about to make a new discovery that will revolutionize the way we live. My dad’s love and intensity for God’s Word has never waned and this is the greatest gift he has given me for which I will be eternally grateful.

By now I would be sitting on my hammock, pretending to read but watching him and marveling at what I was seeing — a man with a fifth grade education, stooped down a book, refueling his reserves to instruct some of the sharpest minds in these parts.

1 IT BLOG 5-22-2015People would usually come in with the standard “Olá, Pastor” greeting, and invade the magic, bringing him back to this world, as it were. On this particular day a member of the church comes by, Bible on hand, and announces, “I want to receive some instruction from Scriptures about dealing with some family members who are spititists” (followers of Allan Kardec).

And that’s when the chatty, social, jovial, playful but serious side of my father comes out. He sits there, listens to the questions carefully, and goes to the Bible, emphasizing every point, reading from both Testaments with the agility of a first class fencer. I pitch in here and there, offering a meager contribution, but then fade into the background, letting him do his thing.

Only God knows whether I might see my father again this side of eternity, but if I do, I’ve already made a decision: I will have my Bible with me every time I have a conversation with him, no matter the topic. I realized, maybe too late, that the Bible for my dad has the same effect that a T.V. set has for a lot of people. Have you ever met people who talk around the T.V. or need it to remain engaged in a conversation? Well, the Bible is it for my dad. My dad is not quiet. He is just quiet if the subject is something other than the Bible. Strange but wonderfully true.

For those who live near him, if you care, you might catch a glimpse of the old man in his accustomed place. If you decide to come in, bring your Bible and be ready with a question. He will be delighted to serve you. But don’t wait too long. The patio may look different if you do.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Religions Blog
“The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible”
is a motto that has been around Grace Brethren circles for a long time. While I am conscious of the historical context that gave rise to it – the Grace Brethren group broke off from the Ashland Brethren group in large part because of the perceived weak view the latter had regarding the authority of Scriptures – I now realize that this can also be a narrow way to define one’s principal beliefs.

That the Bible is central to everything we believe as Christians is undeniable, but contrary to Islam and Mormonism, to cite just two, we do not seek to place our religious writings in an exalted pedestal requiring a level of veneration almost akin to adoration. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, ascribed to the Book of Mormon a status achieved by no other religious book in the world. It is the most complete, the final authority from God. Muhammad, naturally, also claimed the same about the Koran.

We, Christians, on the other hand, claim that Jesus Christ is the final revelation of God. The author of Hebrews said that in these last days God spoke “in” His Son, not simply “by” or “through.” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Hmmm. Jesus was the walking billboard of God. If for some reason we didn’t have the Bible, God’s ultimate revelation to mankind would still be intact because it lived, breathed, walked and talked among the likes of us. The Christian view permits no quasi-divine status to the Holy Book. We are biblio-centric but never bibliolaters.

Since the claim has been made that the Book of Mormon is the crown of God’s revelation to mankind, then it is reasonable to say that the book will be a bullet-proof case of precision and order, completely insulated from the perils that plague a merely human book or a religious book of less worth (as all others would be, according to Joseph Smith).

But when you apply that test, the Book of Mormon is found wanting. Willfully short of perfection.

Let’s forget the unusual circumstances in which the book was supposed to have been found. Let’s forget the cunning and conniving that seemed to be present during the so-called “translation” from the gold plates. Let’s forget that “Reformed Egyptian” is not even a language any linguist anywhere has ever recognized that it exists. Let’s forget all of that and go to narratives in the book itself.

According to the Book of Mormon, the American Indians are direct descendants from the Hebrews, who immigrated to the New World; but this is contrary to every anthropologist or archaeologist (non-affiliated with the Mormon Church). Even some scientists from Brigham Young university have expressed doubt whether the traditional view espoused in the Book of Mormon can be maintained.

The whole geography of the book appears to be a fiction (not a single town listed in the Book of Mormon has been found — even traces of them– by archaeologists). One is left with only faith in something that the prophet and a few of his followers said about the origin of the book.

Though many Mormons claim that the Smithsonian Institutions have used their book in their research, this has been patently denied by this institution, as you can read here.

The chronology of the book is also off. According to Joseph Smith, the first group of Semites arrived in North and South America between 3,000 and 2,000 B.C., but Archaeology shows conclusively that  western hemisphere was populated at least as far back as 10,000 B.C. by east Asian peoples who migrated across the Bering Strait. For a summary of this argument, go here.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that even some Mormon scholars have expressed doubt about the overall geography present in the Book of Mormons. Some of them have proposed what is called the “limited geography” theory, but this presents even more challenges to someone who believes the Book of Mormon is the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind. For a detailed analysis of the limited geography theory, go here. Warning: it is somewhat technical…

I am not buying any of it, and if you want to hear more, please join us this Sunday at Grace Church. As I compared the understanding we Christians have about the Bible with how Mormons view the Book of Mormons, I was once again reminded of how radically different our approach is. Christ could never compete for a place of prominence, even against the Bible. Though I like the motto that places emphasis on Scriptures, I for one would rather live by this motto: “Christ alone, all of Him, and nothing but Him.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade